When I receive a call from a potential customer, one of the things I’m told very frequently is, “I think I might have bed bugs.” Not a bed bug, but bed bugs (plural). It’s a natural, commonplace way to describe the issue. Yet, what I’m also asked on occasion is, “It is possible I only have 1 bed bug?” I’ve always felt it’s an excellent question when asked, and a question worth talking about more in detail.
When a person has unknowingly brought a bed bug infestation into their home (or workplace, etc), they’ve either brought in a non-fertile single bed bug, or, more than one bed bugs at once, or, a single fertile female bed bug with the ability to reproduce. Certainly, if you’re going to get an infestation, the first scenario is without question the best case to have. You’ll be able to remediate the problem much more quickly.
We performed an inspection recently that was quite possibly a 1 bed bug infestation:
When we arrived at the customer’s apartment, the customer showed me the series of bites she had talked about on the phone. Having seen many bed bug bites over the past few years, her bites clearly resembled those performed by a bed bug. She had bites in 2 different areas: first, a 3-bite pattern on her leg, and then, a couple of bites on her arm. She said she’d received the first set of bites 8 days earlier, and then the most recent ones on her arm the night before (which is why she called us). It’s not good news at all that she was receiving bites, but, it was good that she was having a reaction to the bites – her welts were very noticeable, even the ones still present from 8 days ago – and her reaction triggered her phone call.
Rockie (our bed bug dog) and I performed a detailed search of the apartment, and our search yielded no positive alerts (an alert is the indication the dog gives that there is a live bed bug presence) until we entered the customer’s bed room. There, our dog alerted to the right side of her mattress/boxspring. The alert took place on the side of the bed that the customer sleeps on, and it was the only alert we received in that room. We finished the inspection, and the dog didn’t alert anywhere else in the apartment.
Upon visual inspection, I lifted up the mattress, checked both sides thoroughly, and found nothing except a few droppings near the seam of the mattress. The droppings were an indication that a live bed bug had had a feeding, and then relieved itself, in that spot. But a bed bug itself was not there. When I checked the boxspring, that’s when we found a culprit – 1 very large bed bug sitting right on the underside lip of the boxspring – in full view once the boxspring was turned over. The customer could see that it was a large bed bug full of blood, and I found it exactly where the dog had alerted. Keeping in mind that a dog will provide the same alert whether there’s 1 bed bug present or more than 1 bed bug present, I continued to search, and found no other bugs. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t any more bed bugs present (they are extremely difficult for humans to find, especially when small infestations are present), but there weren’t any more that I was able to find. (a sidenote here: Boxsprings are particularly difficult to search, because of the vacancies and underlying mesh that can conceal & camouflage a bed bug – especially smaller bed bugs).
Given everything we learned during the search, this was a location where it was possible that only 1 bed bug was present. The customer had a bite pattern that resembled the presence of 1 bed bug, and I happened to find one live bed bug. My advice to the customer was to still take actions to eliminate & control a bed bug presence, because there’s obviously the potential of more bed bugs being present. She purchased a mattress and boxspring cover from us (at a wholesale price), as well as Climbup interceptors, and put them in place immediately on the 4 corners of her bed frame legs. If any more bed bugs were present on either the mattress or inside the boxsping, she’d trapped them right away. Any service that ensued could now be targeted within the room, including the areas closest to the bed where there could still be a live bed bug presence. She also purchased do-
it-yourself, safe pesticides that she was going to apply on the bed frame and surrounding areas the next day, right before she knew she’d be out of the apartment for a while ( in order to avoid any unpleasant pesticide odor at the time of application).
These actions gave her a great chance of controlling any bed bug presence within her sleeping quarters. I’ll add here that licensed pest control company service should always be considered when a bed bug infestation exists, because a good company has the experience and resources needed to bring an infestation under control, and well-concealed fertile bed bugs can and will reproduce very quickly if a do-it-yourself approach is not successful. Yet, sometimes, a person can take action that can start to bring a bed bug infestation under control quickly, especially if a small number of bed bugs are present. Or in some cases, 1 bed bug.